No. 39: House belonging to the University

39A St Giles

The house now numbered 39 was built in a gap between the former No. 39 and No. 40 in 1861. It is a Grade II listed building (List Entry No. 1047143). Historic England describes it as 39A, which was the number it had until 1954. It then took the number 39 that was no longer used by St Benet’s Hall.

The house lies in St Giles' parish.

The right-hand door of the house led to the diocesan registry of the Bishop of Oxford, a building attached to the back of the house. The main part of the house appears to have been let out at that time.

Arms of Samuel Wilberforce

Right: The arms over the doorway on the north side of this building are those of Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford from 1845 to 1869. They show the following:

Sinister: The arms of the See of Oxford: Sable, namely a fesse argent, in chief three demi ladies couped at the waist, heads affrontee, proper, (ducally) crowned Or, arrayed and veiled of the second; in base an ox also argent, horned and hoofed gold, passing a ford barry wavy of six argent and azure

Dexter The arms of the Wilberforce family: An eagle sable charged with a mullet argent [a silver star]

At the top: A bishop's mitre.

Around the edge: A garter inscribed with the motto of the order of the garter, HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE

At the time of the 1772 Survey of Oxford, the site of both this house and of St Benet’s Hall was occupied by Coster’s yard and stable, with a frontage measuring 32 yards 2 feet 6 inches. When the large pair of houses to the north were built in 1830, it looks as though the site of this house became part of the garden of No. 40 for thirty years.

At the time of the 1881 census this house was occupied by Mrs Ann Castle, a 79-year-old widow of independent means, and her 37-year-old daughter Catherine, plus a servant. After her mother’s death in about 1888, Catherine Castle continued to live in the house for another 40 years.

Occupants of 39 (formerly 39A) St Giles’ Street listed in censuses and directories


James Saunders


C. Buckeridge and E. G. Bruton, Architects


Mrs Ann Castle (1868–1889)
Miss Catherine Castle (1890–1927)


Ronald Fielding Dodd, ARIBA


Daryl Cedric Corry, Surgeon


Mrs Hogarth


Mrs Ethel Burney
(with Miss Rosalind L.B.  Moss, D.Litt. from 1943)

By 1973 to 1980+

Richard Ellmann
(Goldsmith’s Professor of English Literature)

Oxford University Gramophone Society at 39A at back 1969–1980+


Ronald Bush
Drue Heinz Professor of American Literature

Software Engineering Centre at 39A at the back since 1999,
now named the Department of Computer Science

This appears to have been used as a lodging house when Mrs and Miss Castle lived here. When the actor Ivan Freebody Simpson signed up for the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 9 June 1916, he gave his next-of-kin as his daughter, Pamela Simpson (aged 11) at this address.

Edwin Laming Macadam and his parents were offered a home at this house when they were homeless after the war by “Burney and Moss”, as the two Egyptologists and travellers who then lived there were known. His father was the Egyptologist Miles Frederick Laming Macadam. Edwin writes:

Rosalind Moss was actually trained as an anthropologist, but her great love was Egypt, and she and Ethel Burney (the widow of a Professor of Hebrew) undertook many trips there to verify inscriptions and other matters for various books they wrote together; an indefatigable pair, and fortunately with a private income to enable them to do so. They were also extremely kind to various young academics, Father being one of the objects of their many kindnesses. To some extent he worked with them – at the Griffith Institute mainly…. Father left Oxford in early 1948, when we moved to Durham where he became Reader in Egyptology at the University.

St Giles’ home

Stephanie Jenkins

Oxford History home